Creaks, squeaks, groans, ticks, clicks and other cacophony

Creaks, squeaks, groans, ticks, clicks and other cacophony

My personal bike standards are pretty lax - dented rims I can feel while braking don't bother me, I don't keep my bikes clean, I don't curate my tire pressure, but creaks, ohman, creaks drive me nuts. I can't stand doing a long climb on a quiet trail and having a loud "click" every pedal rotation. I've even cut rides short (solo rides, that is) to go home and fix creaks.

They're frustratingly common though, and high-end bikes aren't exempt (if anything, fancy carbon and ti bikes seem to be more at risk) but they're usually fixable with a couple of tricks, persistence, and good ole trial-n-error. It's so worth it, too - that first ride after you fix a creak is ultra satisfying. I had two creaks on my Homer over the weekend and I solved them both - I'll share how here in case it helps anybody out.

The first creak was from the bar/stem zone and then another developed somewhere in the drivetrain. If it was just the one I might have been able to overlook it until I got back to Riv after the long weekend, but the confluence of two at once was too much for me to  handle and I decided to tackle it at home. I had just changed a bunch of stuff out on my bike, so it didn't surprise me that I needed a little more fine tuning.

I addressed the creaky bar/stem first. The first thing I do when I get creaks in this zone is greasing the stem clamp where it grips the bar - I know that sounds like a no-no, but I don't see much difference between that and greasing the seatpost and it's solved a lot of my creaks over the years. It's easy and worth a shot.

That didn't work, so I moved on to potential problem area #2, which is the sleeve of the bar. They can creak sometimes, especially as the bars get wider. Fortunately, it's usually an easy fix - I peeled back the bar tape a bit and dripped blue Loctite (mocked up above with Loctite gel - use the liquid) on the crevice between the bar and sleeve, then I laid the bike down on it's side for a half hour and let it soak in there, and then repeated for the other side. If you want to do both sides at once, you can keep the bike upright and blast the Loctite into the cavity using dust-off. I also, for good measure, used a Gorilla Glue pen and filled the gap pictured below with glue:

That didn't do it either, so I moved on to potential creak solution #3, which is adding more grease to the steerer tube where the quill sits. In this case, I couldn't get the quill fully out of the steerer without unhooking all the cables, so I pulled the stem up as high as it would go, flipped the bike over, and stuffed a bunch of grease down through the fork crown with a long-ish dowel, like loading a cannon. Then I lowered the stem to where it was before, put some weight on the bars, and presto! - creak gone. What a relief! Maybe I'll have to do that every six months or something - no big deal.

Next I moved on to the drivetrain creak. The first thing I always do, because it's so easy, is snug the crank bolts a bit. Square taper cranks benefit from a tightening up after a couple rides if it's a new set up. I didn't get off so easily, so I moved on to the bottom bracket.

If you get a creak when you're putting a lot of weight on the pedals, it's usually means the BB cup opposite the side of the creak is working itself loose. My creak was on the non-driveside, so I pulled the cranks and checked to make sure my fixed cup was tight (I have a loose-ball Tange joint). Both that and the lockring on the other side were fine and the spindle was spinning smoothly with no play, so, as long as the cranks were off, I tightened the chainring bolts a bit, which can also make bikes creak if they're loose.

I put the cranks back on, torqued them to the roughly the right spec, and went for a ride around the block - the creak was still there. Then I did what I should have done after tightening the crank bolts - I swapped the pedals.  My non-drive side pedal must need an overhaul, or at least a squirt of grease, because the creak was gone as soon as I switched it out. It's a  Monarch with loose balls so I'll repack it while I'm watching a movie or something and throw it back on later. I went for a creak-free ride Monday that made the effort worth it, and now I feel like a competent mechanic again.

Tools used:

  • 8mm allen for crank bolts
  • Crank puller
  • 5mm allen for chainring bolts
  • Blue Loctite - liquid
  • Gorilla Glue pen
  • 6mm allen for moving the handlebars over and raising the quill
  • Grease - a lot of it. I used Park but the fave at Riv is Slick Honey
  • If you've got a loose ball BB you'll need a fixed cup wrench, a pin spanner, and a lockring wrench. If you have a cartridge, you'll need this splined tool and a big crescent wrench.
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